Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Normal? And Thanksgiving. (Plus a wee bit of other stuff.)

Little Mettesby is now 3 months. 3 months plus a bit more.

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I've always said: “It takes a good three months after I have a baby for life to start feeling normal again.”

Upon realizing her age last week, I asked myself if I felt normal yet. My self hummed and hawed and tilted her head -- considering things like bedtimes and sleep schedules, feedings and predictability, things she could and could not count on getting done in a day, etc. . . . but she was completely unable to come up with a clear yes or no. Not even a “sort of”.

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As far as I can figure, I've forgotten what normal is. I have no clear idea of what it’s supposed to feel like. Or of what I was imagining when I said it before.

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Whatever it is, or whatever it was, I don't think I'll recognize it when I get there . . . since . . . I don’t recognize if I'm already there.

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But perhaps it’s just as well. Maybe I’m better off just bumbling along with each day being my . . . current normal rather than expecting life to ever slip back to some past normal.

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And, I will say that having a baby and . . . a baby has proven mostly easier than I’d thought it would be (though easier than I thought is not to be confused with simply easy. No. No. They are quite different things.) Also, we are . . . going about our business and generally doing whatever it is we do without too much of the hesitancy occasioned by a newborn’s arrival.

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Here we are tramping around some frost-covered “land for sale” last weekend. (We aren’t in the market, but Mike’s dad was considering it, and Mike’s always . . . dreaming it.)

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And we held our traditional feast-before-the-feast feast this past Sunday. We still have Thanksgiving dinner at one of our parents’ homes, but for the past few years we’ve been cooking our own turkey the Sunday before. It keeps evolving and growing in scope so that, this year, it was complete with gumdrop-turkey place holders, my grandma’s china, sparkling cider, and the girls staying up late to make pies with me the night before. If we rally enough to make Mike’s mom’s homemade crescent rolls next year, it will be a complete “early” Thanksgiving indeed!

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We invited Mike’s parents to join us. Everyone is in the picture except for me – taking the picture, and Mette – on a blanket on the floor behind everyone, and Anders – haha, just kidding, he is in the picture, but his head is low and his shirt matches the tablecloth, so . . . he’s a bit camouflaged.

Our first attempt at a Thanksgiving feast was when we lived in WA. It was exciting to be having our first holiday just as us – our little family unit – but I recall after all the work (calling home for advice on how to make gravy, asking WA ward friends about sweet potatoes, etc.) feeling a bit let down. In a half hour we’d finished eating all of that work, and that was it. It seemed just a smidgen anticlimactic.

However, looking back, I have such happy memories of pulling off that first Thanksgiving on our own, and, this year, I finally realized that the work and effort – rather than just being means to an end (the meal) – are, instead, part of the tradition. Remembering to get the turkey in the fridge long enough beforehand that it will fully thaw, lists and grocery shopping, Mike looking up a new idea for how he’ll cook the turkey (this year the process involved bacon), juggling how to get everything ready at about the same time. It’s all part of it. And, it wasn’t actually that much work this year. The older three kids peeled all the potatoes, Mike did the turkey, Abe was in charge of stuffing, etc. It was happy -- all of us working together to pull off this feast. I felt a wee bit of sadness as I noted all the ease and excess we enjoy, but mostly just gratitude. I love how traditions I grew up with (gumdrop turkeys) have mixed with traditions Mike grew up with (stovetop stuffing) and new traditions of our own (the whole feast-before-the-feast feast). It’s such an unexpected gift: seeing endings morph into beginnings (for example, my sisters and I used to always make pies the night before Thanksgiving together, while that no longer happens, it was this sudden, new, happy thing – the same but different – me making pies with my daughters). All of it just felt like such a circle, a combining, and a creating. I liked it. And . . . we still have more Thanksgiving to come! Maybe Mike isn’t so crazy after all claiming this as his favorite holiday.

And . . . on a totally different topic, I just paused typing this blog post for Goldie and I to look up some pictures of her at Mette’s age. We held Mette right next to this image on our computer screen and had a good adoring chuckle over the equally chubby cheeks and arms, and similar dark hair. Here Goldie was 11 years ago. Who knew she’d get a little near-twin over a decade later.

more halloween

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Dream

Last night I dreamt that it was late evening – totally dark as winter evenings are -- and I was pulling into my parents long driveway. I was surprised to see their Christmas lights -- already up and shining into the night with the same happy familiarity they did during all of my growing up years. Off to the left I thought I caught a glimpse of the Christmas tree glowing through the living-room window. A small spark of excitement struck me as it occurred to me that it might be one of the 16 foot tall ones we had during the years when we were all still living at home. Thinking of what might be inside seemed to immediately transport me there. As I stepped inside the door, I heard familiar Christmas music coming from the record player in “the pit” (as we always called the cozy area with the wood-burning stove and couches just before the kitchen). My parents were there – as strong and happy and able as they’ve ever been. They looked up from whatever they’d been busying with and smiled – ready to welcome me. My younger sister stood in the kitchen. Noticing her, I again had no need to transport myself any physical distance (even one as short as the distance through our entryway, past the pit, and the long dining table to the kitchen). I was simply taken right next to her. We hugged each other tightly and both of us cried and cried. We didn’t need words. We understood each other’s emotions. Here we were. Everything as it ever had been. Every happiest thing still whole and there – none of it faded or part of some distant past. My parents, I knew, were standing behind us – smiling at us and at each other with happiness and some amusement, but mostly joy over their daughter’s reactions. I knew that the minute Megan and I parted, we’d be hugging them and there would be more tears.

And then I woke up.

It’s always interesting to me that dreams illicit real emotion – emotion that doesn’t know to go anywhere just because one has woken to a different reality. Every time I’ve thought of that dream today, I feel that familiar thickness in my throat and I start to cry again.

Only, . . . I can’t explain this perfectly, but it doesn’t just feel like tears of nostalgia – tears of loss over sweet stages now past. It also feels, strangely, like teary impatience. Like anxious expectation of things still to come; of a time when I will finally understand that there never truly were any endings. There were no goodbyes. And that all of this – every good thing and perfect joy is somehow still there. Still real. Still part of me. Still continuing. I think I’m crying over the wait I must still have before I’ll see that nothing is gone at all, and all of this is mine . . . forever. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Little Bit of Practically Everything

Several days ago, I walked into the kitchen, leaned into Mike, and, with a sigh of accomplishment, said, “It's just the two of us, and it's only 9 o'clock!”

Mike raised one eyebrow and gave me a skeptical look . . . at which point I noticed that I was still holding a child.

Well fine, if you’re going to be a stickler about details: almost the two of us then.

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This morning I discovered Summer splashing all of the water out of our dog's bowl. Anders sat nearby – mildly curious and idly watching.

“Anders!” I reprimanded, as I whisked the bowl away from Summer. “If you see Summer doing this, you need to tell me; or take the bowl away so she doesn't make such a mess!”

“But it wasn't me, Mom,” Anders protested, “It was just Summer.”

“I know,” I agreed as I began mopping water up with a towel. “But you're a big boy, so I need you to tell me when you see her doing something like this.”

“Oh,” Anders said – sounding surprised. “I thought I was still a little boy.”

I guess we never did have any kind of formal announcement, any clarification over his “big boy” status. I think I just erroneously assumed it was a given back when he finished potty-training a year or so ago. My bad.

(Also, see if you can spy the 4 year old who crammed himself into a pink, 18 month-old, poodle costume in the pictures below. It totally reminds me of Ralphie in his pink bunny outfit on A Christmas Story.)

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I've had a hard time putting thoughts into words of late. I alternate between thinking things like, “Power through! Get out that pencil (or keyboard, as the case may be) and ram away at that writer's-block wall!” and “Just give it a rest. Don't think about it and the words will eventually come.” (And then, one of my babies wakes up – making whether I do or don't want to attempt writing completely irrelevant.)

It’s a jumble of things about the intimate awareness God really does have for each individual – his ability to see how every event will affect every single one of us, and the steps to turn that individually (and eventually) for our good. Broader thoughts about not knowing the steps to get loved ones (or myself) from here to there, but a new trust that God does see every one of those steps perfectly (“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”). Feelings about hope and fear. A recognition that fear is never from our Father – no matter how justified it seems. A desire to abandon fear completely – to keep turning towards light and hope every time those black jaws gape wide and those fingers of despair reach towards me. Feelings of increased faith and hope (and less fear) over climbing the mountains I will inevitably face. An admission that precious things I now know . . . I could not have known without an uprooting of ease. A new acceptance of the fact that there will be more I’ll need to learn . . . that can only come by way of heartache and difficulty, but with that, more certainty that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

So many things on my mind that I want to get solidly out where I can exam them, but I feel like I am experiencing a period of growth that I can’t yet formulate into expression – much as I want to (and eventually hope to). As Maxwell said, “Sometimes the things we know take the form of knowledge about what is happening to us in life in which we sense purpose, in which we sense divine design, but which we cannot speak about with full articulateness. There are simply moments of mute comprehension and of mute certitude. . . . God often gives us the assurances we need but not necessarily the capacity to transmit these assurances to anyone else.”

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I love Mette in that little dress in this first picture. Something about it feels very . . . Scandinavian like her name and makes me imagine her foiling the plans of mischievous little trolls or associating with polar bears in a Jan Brett book.

Abe, Penny and Jesse recently had the pretty awesome honor of being groomsman, flower-girl, and ring-bearer at their cousin Devin’s wedding. Our ties to both Devin and Blaire are strong and deep (and it’s not just because Devin usually brings donuts when he visits), so it was a very big deal to my kids to be able to be a part of this huge day in the life of Devin and his now wife Jenny. I wish I’d taken pictures, but it was a crazy day and I only managed to snap this one of the three of them, but am grateful for this hilarious picture that a friend snapped of Anders’ intense interest in the wedding proceedings (haha), and this cute picture of Mette over my shoulder.

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Also, bits of Halloween. (My “real” camera is currently not working – gasp – we’re debating fixing it over getting a new one, but until then . . . my pictures will continue to be all cell-phone quality.)

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And lastly, Mette’s quilt. This is the third of my children to be born since my friend Jill took up quilting – and my third to get one of her quilts. It is so uniquely Mette-ish (just as Anders’ and Summer’s were so clearly theirs) and the card she sent with it (revealing the thought process that went into tying colors and patterns all in with Mette Mary – the name -- as well as the experiences I’ve had with her and future hopes for her) brought me to tears. Knowing the hours upon hours that go into things like this made me feel, for a moment, guilty for having another baby that Jill would feel she need make a quilt for; but that feeling dissolved quickly into simply . . . joy and gratitude over the beauty of: friendships, and knowing you are loved, and shared gifts (in both senses of that word).

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